Archive for the 'Documentary' Category

30
Mar
09

Vinyan (2009) – extreme boredom cinema

Vinyan

Vinyan

Having seen Vinyan getting rave reviews and full page spreads in Fangoria, I was quite eager to see it. It has even been billed as being the first of a new wave in ‘extreme cinema’.

A couple who lost their kid in a Tsunami think they see him in a video showing orphaned kids in Burma. The wife goes loopy and demands they travel to Burma looking for their son, this they do, spending a fortune on ‘guides’ who continually rip them off asking for more money.

What happens next? I’ve no idea. It took the film makers approximately 45mins to tell me, visually, what I’ve told you in two sentences. Thus, I gave up after the half way mark.

I could see the point of the initial 15-20mins where the couple see the video and she starts planning a vacation to hell on earth Burma, but was it really necessary to spend another 20mins seeing the couple going from place to place getting ripped off? Not in my opinion. The actors did a good job, solid acting, but the pacing is God awful.

I have a self made rule it’s called ‘the 30 minute rule’. That’s how long a film has to impress me. If, after about 25mins it shows promise, I’ll give it to the 40min mark. I broke my own rules to give Vinyan a chance, I should have killed it at the 30min mark. In my opinion Vinyan is the first in a new wave of extreme boredom cinema.

You know the old saying: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And Vinyan is no exception.

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15
Mar
09

Psychic TV – First Transmission (1982) – Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth

Psychic TV - First Transmission

Psychic TV - First Transmission

I fully intended to do my homework with this set of videos to bring you the background behind them and any other informative snippets that I could find. But the more I researched the more muddled the story became, so sod it – I’ll just review what I saw…

Psychic TV was a music band set up by a guy named Genesis P Orridge (no, seriously). From what I could gather, Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth (who were obviously illiterate to use a spelling like that) were the visual side of Mr Orridge’s audio side. The set of videos were apparently only available through mail order and only if you had bought his previous nine albums. You know how it goes, you buy the thing – get a token – keep the tokens, send them in, blah blah blah. But in return for some tokens you were sent this set of bizarre movies which last about six hours in total. What’s on them? I’m glad you asked…

The first (of four) tapes begins with some guy who is apparently the spokesman for Thee Temple Ov Psychick Youth (TOPY). While we hear a voice, the figure is mouthing, and gesturing, something completely different, so that section is a bit like watching an old Jackie Chan movie (back when he was good). The next forty-five minutes are of some poor devil getting whipped, slashed and, to top it all off, given – what looks like – a blood enema. Are these scenes real hacking and slashing? I honestly don’t know, but the cutting scenes do look real, taking in to account that this was made in the early 80’s (special effects weren’t cheap and were usually God awful) it certainly looks real. Then, an intermission – five minutes of the Virgin Mary complete with flashing heart and halo.

Virgin Mary figure, complete with flashing halo and heart! (batteries not included)

Virgin Mary figure, complete with flashing halo and heart! (batteries not included)

And to finish off video one, some chick peeling off her drawers to reveal one of the most ugly vaginas ever. I don’t think it was supposed to be hideous, but its one of those vaginas with the curling in labia and sticky out bits. Ugh…

Video two starts off with someone driving around a town somewhere taking video footage at the same time. This was obviously filmed in the 70’s since everyone is wearing flares and tight t-shirts. The we see some teenagers in a flat looking absolutely stoned out their nut. After about five minutes of them we cut to some kid getting some backstreet surgery done on his arm this, it would appear, lets him (and later, his friend) hook up some device to his arm where he can press a button and get high as a kite.

What's this all about? Answers on a postcard to the usual address...

What's this all about? Answers on a postcard to the usual address...

Later in this section he lies face down on a table and our backstreet Mr Mengele operates at the base of the kids spine with another little press-button box thing. Unfortunately it’s at this point the kid pops his clogs, dressed only in his underpants with a little black box dangling from his ass crack. Mr Mengele seems upset and we cut to some flashback footage. Finally, we get some de-penis-ing. Not castration as some reviews have said. His testicles are not removed, his PENIS is removed! No, I’m not kidding. This kid lies down on a bed, some guy comes in with a pair of scissors and cuts his dick off. And there’s a fair few spurts of blood. Is it fake? Again, I doubt it, as this was, again, released in the early 80’s, I doubt they had the technology to do this back then.

‘But how does he pee?’ I hear you ask.

His urine dribbles forth from a small opening above his testicles. As is demonstrated near the end of this video. Most unpleasant! This tape ends with some weird music (Psychic TV music? I dunno) and flashing images. Trippy maaaaaan!

Oooooh, oh... pretty woman. Oh no, sorry, it's Jim Jones...

Oooooh, oh... pretty woman. Oh no, sorry, it's Jim Jones...

Tape three is the Jim Jones tribute tape. There’s just over thirty minutes of Jim ‘I want to be Elvis, but look more like Roy Orbison’ Jones’ rambling madness. Sanity is forthcoming however, with five minutes of a pretty girl disrobing, showing her boobs then getting dressed again. Hallelujah! Insanity returns with ten minutes, or so, of a girl clipping her beaver hair and some guy poking a hole in the side of his dick. Yes, there’s blood.

Final video begins with an interview. Now I initially thought this was some bald headed dyke, but according to the type on screen, it’s Mr Genesis P. Orridge himself.

Mr Genesis P. Orridge - I still reckon it's a dyke...

Mr Genesis P. Orridge - I still reckon it's a dyke. Would you trust a guy who shaves his eyebrows like a woman??

Him (and someone else) ramble on for a good five minutes before it cuts to some swirly shapes with weird music. Now either I have an over-active imagination (quite possible) or they’ve purposely used some porn footage in the swirly shapes. Behold:

It's porn, I'm telling you. No, seriously. No, I'm not on drugs!!

It's porn, I'm telling you. No, seriously. No, I'm not on drugs!!

Swirly porn-ified music continues for about twenty minutes before the video cuts to a screen proclaiming: ‘An Introduction to the Temple Ov Psychick Youth’. Now it’s flashing images for the best part of twenty minutes and, finally, ending with the spokesman.

The badly out of sync spokesman.

The badly out of sync spokesman.

Having read a bit in to Mr Orridge, and PsychicTV, these videos are more art-house than horror. Certainly the torture and de-penis-ing are gory, and possibly real, but the rest are (I think) mere visual imagery for his music. Still worth flicking through just to be able to tell people what you saw.

On second thoughts – no, maybe it’s better if you don’t tell them about the torture and de-penis-ing!

10
Jan
09

The Poughkeepsie Tapes Review

That's a lot of tapes.  Guy must of had a reward zone card for Best Buy.

That's a lot of tapes. Guy must of had a reward zone card for Best Buy.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes (or simply Tapes, as I will refer to it from here on out) is not a movie.

I’ll let that sink in.

“When hundreds of videotapes showing torture, murder and dismemberment are found in an abandoned house, they reveal a serial killer’s decade-long reign of terror and become the most disturbing collection of evidence homicide detectives have ever seen.” -Tribeca Film Festival Synopsis.

It’s a mockumentary, minus the comedy and satire.  It’s a mockumentary that houses a two-pronged attack of brutally accurate portrayals of torture, murder and dismemberment seamlessly interwoven with expert analysis and the thoughts and memories of those who were affected by the killers rampage, and those who were hunting him down.

In fact, it’s not too far removed from what the Discovery channel and TLC show on a daily basis.  All those shows about FBI profilers and how they catch these seriously deranged serial killers all seemed to be influential to the Dowdle Brothers, who both penned and directed Tapes.

And  writing may actually be Tapes strongest assets, although I’m sure it will get lost amidst all the chatter about the lengthy, suspenseful, and downright shocking film the killer shoots himself that is shown at certain intervals throughout.  The writing leaps off the screen, as the Dowdle brothers concoct a credible, highly intelligent, innovative killer and sets him loose in the “Anywhere, USA” suburbs of Poughkeepsie, New York.  The killer taunts his pursuers and gives cryptic clues for investigators to find, knowing far in advance where exactly the authorities will look to find them.  It’s this depth to a nameless, faceless character that brings us closer to him than is comfortable for most audiences.  Instead of being bogged down with trite, rationalizing back story about how the killer was beaten as a child or not hugged enough as a baby, we instead get an uncompromising and genius killer, who has found a way to elude the authorities all while documenting his spree.

A brief glimpse of the killer's throrough work.

A brief glimpse of the killer's thorough work.

Direction is also key, not so much in the static look of the interview pieces, (with the exception of the interview with Cheryl which actually made me lose sleep, it’s that fucking clever and disturbing) but in the low-fi, slow burn masterwork of the killers tapes.  The camera is almost always in the right position, whether it’s showing you everything that’s going on, or whether it’s showing you nothing, such as the inside of a car door, or an empty room.  There are times where the camera will be haphazardly placed, seemingly by accident, and we are left with just the screams and pleads of the victim and the orders of the killer to clue us in of what going on.  It’s a time-tested approach that works flawlessly here.  Show some gore in full view to screw with audience equilibrium, and then deprive them seeing something later on.  It works in two ways.  Once you don’t show the audience a scene straight on, it gets their minds working.  They create in their head horrible visions of what must be going on.  It also works to create a sickening feeling in the viewers, because they have to realize that they WANT to see whats happening, so much so they are willing to create the images in their own heads to replace the ones that aren’t on the screen.  It’s a lost art, but it’s a tactic employed by the Dowdle Bros. in exemplary fashion.

Eyes Without A Face reference in the movie.  Who would've thought?

Eyes Without A Face reference in the movie. Who would've thought?

With the audio and visual facets of the film firmly in and place grounded in reality, the one area where horror, or should I say terror in this case, goes awry is usually the acting.  You can have all your ducks in a row as far as directing and writing are concerned, but if your actors don’t come through in creating these characters in the physical form, than everything is lost.  Thankfully, the Dowdle Bros. must have been keen on this, and not only hired no names, but no names who looked liked everyday people.  I’m not sure how involved with the casting they were, but from what I’ve read and inferred through the piece itself, it seems fairly obvious they were pivotal in every decision made.  The most all inclusive and flattering thing I can say is, and this goes for the whole endeavor, not JUST the acting, if this were played one TV on night, and no one was told it wasn’t real, there would be a legitimate fear and uproar in many communities around the U.S.  It’s that believable.  So believable that even though I knew coming in it wasn’t real, I still lost sleep over it, and was looking over my shoulder while watching it.  It’s orchestrated with the sole intention of, if nothing else, to stay with you long after the credits have rolled.

Tapes has a long, uphill battle ahead it.  Still having no official release date for theatrical or dvd release, it is caught in release purgatory.  And once it is released, it will undoubtedly be met with serious backlash from angry mothers and politicians who won’t even bother to see the flick, but instead just berate both those who created it, and its fans.  It will be labeled as the next sick evolutionary step in the Torture Porn sub genre, when it really has a lot less to do with the fantasy world that movies like SAW occupy, and a lot more to do with the gritty, unfair, demented world we live in everyday.  There’s no sense of morals, right and wrong, or justification that other horror flicks try to implore.  It is just cruel, relentless, remorseless and always 10 steps ahead of you.  Just like the killer.

The Poughkeepsie Tapes has, buried underneath it’s tough outer shell, an insane amount of creativity and artistic ingenuity.  If an opportunity to see this bound-to-be-lost gem arises, don’t hesitate.  Just don’t plan on going to bed immediately afterward.

31
Oct
08

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!!

Halloween, and Autumn in particular, has always been a very special time for me.  From a young age, I was introduced to the really special vibe that comes from this time of year, especially since I’ve been fortunate enough to live in states where there are, for the most part, 4 distinct seasons.  Leaves begin changing colours (that’s for you Ronnie), a little bite comes along with the breezy air, and the night begins to go bump more often.

So instead of doing another review, I’ve decided to just post some of the most unnerving videos I can find on the Internet, and hopefully make you feel a little uncomfortable as you rest your head tonight.






Hopefully that tightened you up a bit. Sleep tight. Enjoy your Halloween.


25
Oct
08

Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror Documentary

Dario putting on his "serious thought" face.

Dario putting on his"serious thought" face.

Dario Argento is a big deal.  His name is synonymous with Italian horror and Giallo films.  Dario’s name is both whispered in esteem and shouting in anger.  My own experience with his films has been mixed, going from moments of pure bliss, to moments where I felt as lost as the characters that are stuck in Argento’s disjointed reverie.  What I do know is that I have only scratched the surface of his 15 plus movie catalog, and that I also wanted to get to know the man a little better, because anyone creating such violent, nightmarish, and sinister flicks much be someone who has an interesting story to tell.

So imagine my joy when i stumbled upon this little 50 minutes documentary spanning his entire career up to the year 2000.  As you can probably imagine, since this doc. is under an hour long, it cuts through the usual bullshit and starts giving you the highlights almost immediately.  We get the brief childhood story, then into his days as a critic, his big break writing a movie for Sergio Lione, and then we get to his directing career.

John Carpenter, George Romero, Tom Savini, Alice fucking Cooper, Maitland McDonagh, daughter Asia and Fiore Argento, and more all come in and speak there parts about what they know and what they have experienced working with the lgened over the years.  The exception being Maitland McDonagh, who is a professional film critic and author, and one of my favorite of the learned critics out there, because she loves horror movies and knows more than I could ever wish to know about them.  Some good stories pop up every once in a while, while Asia gives some frightening insight to the relevance and complexity of the Argento family and their on and off screen relationships.

Some footage of classic kills and dreamy scenes are used to show off Argento’s skills, and to offset the sheer boredom that would eventually overcome any viewer after just watching people talk about something that is obviously very visual.  So take that as a warning for those who don’t want anything spoiled.

This is a small treat for both those familiar with Dario’s work, and those looking to find a reason to give a shit about him.  Besides the minor spoilery contained within the footage from his movies, this is about as good an intro to the world of Argento film making as I’ve seen.

Expect more reviews to come in the very near future, including some of Argento’s work.

17
Oct
08

A Perfect Fake – Hyper-Realistic Sex Dolls

To be perfectly honest, the first fifteen to twenty minutes of this documentary are boring. It discusses the creation of the perfect fake human, whether it be in CGI or in robotics. The narrator sounds like she’s been narrating all day is well and truly bored. Only after about twenty minutes does it begin to delve in to the CGI porn from, you guessed it, Japan.

It briefly talks about the CGI films, and games, which the Japanese love so much then discusses the possibility of computer controlled sex toys, and this is where the English translation provides comedy gold.

You warped Japs! WE LOVE YOU!!

You warped Japs! WE LOVE YOU!!

I’m sure the translations are accurate, but it’s just the way in which they discuss things that got me laughing. Like the man above who, using a PC, various magnets and a rubber vagina, has created a robotic beaver that, in theory, someone using the PC (or over the internet) could control. His frank discussion of Japanese habits like: ‘they [Japanese men] put their cock in a vacuum [cleaner] and go “oooh”‘ were hilarious. He needs his own TV show that man.

It then moves on to the man with, easily, the freakiest doll of them all:

Agh! Imagine looking down and seeing that thing!

Imagine humping away, looking down, and seeing that thing... it'd put you off your stride!

And its owner is pretty freaky looking too. Definitely a ‘wouldn’t-leave-my-kids-with-him’ guy. He tells how he saw Tina (as he calls her) on a web site and bought her. I suppose it’s the latex equivalent of a Russian bride…

Yeah, excited in the pants you mean!

No, I think your work mates wanted rid of you, you weirdo!

No, I think your work mates wanted rid of you, you weirdo!

He then thought: ‘what can I do with this doll?’ (since I don’t think it’s actually a sex doll) and found that there were many people who take their dolls out in the real world and photograph them, so that’s what Tina’s owner decided to do, dismantle her, stick her in a bag, wheel her out in to the wide open world, stick a pole up her ass, prop her up in a field and take photo’s of her. Oh how I’d love to have seen the faces of those passing by.

I'm speechless by this mans psychological misgivings...

Ok, he's a crackpot...

It does briefly mention Idoloid, a Japanese porn magazine that uses only sex dolls in its photographs, but it then moves in to the real sex doll side of things. One collector (read: raving pervert) is a well known Japanese businessman who’s identity is hidden behind a blurred face.

Yeah, I'll bet you do!

Yeah, I'll bet you do!

He explains that some people throw their old dolls away when they get new ones, but not him, oh no, he keeps them all and even has a spare apartment to keep them all in! This guy is obviously a professional sexual deviant. He doesn’t mess around…

Notice how they all look rather young?...

Notice how they all look rather young?...

He even, helpfully, discusses how you should plug their holes up (*snigger*), when not in use, and how to properly position them so as not to have them distort or crack over time.

The programme runs for close to an hour and only after the short CGI discussion does it get to the good stuff, I’m not sure if the programme was written specifically about the Japanese market, or if they found it difficult to find a Westerner with a sex doll, but either way – if you want to sit and way ‘what the FUCK?!’ ever few minutes then this is the documentary for you. Although it never did tell you how much it was to buy a sex doll…

26
Sep
08

Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film

Much better than the dvd cover.  Simple and to the point. (he he)

With the horror in general seeing a major revival in the new millennium, horror fans have seen their fair share of documentaries on the subject pop up both on TV and on DVD.  Most are around to cash in on either the Halloween season, or plug their own horror related ventures by recapping all the movies and characters that came before it that it will ultimately rip ideas from.  Going to pieces isn’t some shameless ploy to get you to watch something else though.  What it is is a entertaining, informative and passionate look back at how we got to where we are in the slasher sub-category today, while simultaneously showing us a portion of the history of the horror genre as a whole as well.

It opens by introducing us to some of the humble beginnings of horror in the theater, and then rockets us to Psycho, shows us a bit from that time period (the 60’s) as a foundation for what’s to come.  It really picks up when they begin to discuss the immense success of Halloween, and really champions it as THE slasher movie to see, not only as a perfect example of everything a slasher can be, but as the ignition of societies relationship with killers in film.

The whole gangs here, from Nicotero, Savini, Carpenter, Cunningham, Craven, Winston, Rob Zombie, and more.  Familiar faces talk about their work and contributions to the genre, and talk about how and why they came upon the ideas that wound up shaping the face of horror forever.  The special effects guys run us through some of their favorite and more notable kills, and touch on why people seem to enjoy watching people getting killed in horrible ways.  Coming from the elders of not only the slasher set, but horror in general, this is somewhat of the gospel to us fan boys, and i suspect many of you out there will enjoy just hearing your heroes talk, let alone actually listening to exactly what they are saying.

They also go into the political and social controversy that plagued these films in the 80’s, and show clips of Siskel and Ebert claiming that the slasher film is anti-women, misogynistic, and so on and so forth.  Going to Pieces fights back however, standing up for our beloved serial killers by providing some nice commentary on the subject that isn’t just your typical “HEY…leave us alone” rhetoric.  It acknowledges the fact that horror films are the easiest to go after, and that many critics have made a name for themselves slamming them and standing up for morality.  Rob Zombie then chimes in with an interesting point.  If you were to show a prison full of criminals Disney movies non-stop, would they turn into good people?  I thought that was a fairly astute observation, and a convincing argument from someone very passionate about our beloved movies.

My major complaint is that in examining some better known movies, they reveal the twist endings to many of them.  So if you haven’t yet seen Prom Night, Sleepaway Camp, Friday the 13th, and some others, you may want to watch these first, as the whole surprise will be ruined and you’ll never get to experience the thrill of not seeing these fantastic finishes coming.

If you love the masked murderer sub-genre, this is a must see.  Rarely do you see this much care and accuracy in a documentary, and while there are some mistakes, most notably that Halloween wasn’t truly the FIRST slasher the American audience had been subjected to as many predated it, it still comes off as an in-depth, and more importantly, highly entertaining look into what has been, what is, and what will be in one of the most extreme types of scary flicks around.